Connecting to prior knowledge

Observations and predictions

Introduce Aster’s Good, Right Things by Kate Gordon. Make observations while looking closely at the cover and the blurb, and note the characters mentioned. Generate discussion and predictions about possible themes that will emerge throughout the text. Record students’ comments and ideas so you can refer to them as you move through the unit.

Character profiles

Draft character profiles for Aster and Xavier and record predictions for each. This can be done on poster paper OR a Google Doc that you share with students. Google Classroom also provides the option to create a working document with students where they can add their own responses.

Save and/or display the profiles for future reference; they will be expanded throughout the unit.

Good, right things: examples, connections and life experiences

Read and reflect on the prologue (which is actually an extract from Chapter One, p. 4). Discuss and list possible examples of ‘good, right things’. Connect these ideas to student life experiences and scenarios. You may be able to link this to Health and Physical Education outcomes (formerly under the Communicating and Interacting for Health and Wellbeing sub-strand, Years 5 and 6). Create a poster or Google Doc titled ‘Good, Right Things’ and invite students to add their ideas.

(ACELY1699)   (EN3-8D)

Exploring the text in context of our community, school and ‘me’

Wellbeing: heathy bodies, healthy minds

Aster’s school promotes ‘Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds’ (p. 8). Emphasise how this philosophy, at its core, draws on the importance of wellbeing for both the individual and those around them. Connect this to the importance of maintaining caring and respectful relationships in all facets of life: in the community, at school and at home.

In groups, invite students to discuss the importance and implications of ‘Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds’ in the context of their community, their school and themselves. Compare this to your own school motto if you have one.

(ACELY1699)   (EN3-8D)

Model texts and picture books: feelings and emotions

Read a variety of texts and picture books that provoke discussion about feelings and emotions. Connect these ideas to students’ own experiences. Model texts might include:

Point out and discuss some of the figurative language used in the texts. Discuss how these features highlight the themes and meet the authors’ purposes. Create a word wall with students by collaboratively recording snippets, quotes, metaphors and other figurative language from the model texts, representing different feelings and emotions. This will encourage students to recognise diversity of experiences, as well as differences in setting and lifestyle.

Feelings, emotions and the brain

Read Hey Warrior by Karen Young. Explain the role of the amygdala, sparking discussion about how this increases wisdom, builds courage, strengthens resilience and pushes capabilities. Enhance students’ understanding of the amygdala by viewing the following clips:

Now read pp. 62–64 of Aster’s Good, Right Things (starting from about the third paragraph), drawing attention to Xavier’s final comment about his brain. With increased understanding, students may be able to create their own metaphors about the amygdala. Invite them to record their ideas on coloured paper and add them to the word wall.

(ACELY1701)   (EN3-5B)

The feelings thermometer and coping strategies

Hey Warrior mentions several strategies to manage feelings of anxiety. Refer to the part of the text that talks about how these feelings can happen to anyone at any time, or simply raise this in a discussion with students. Also discuss the fact that – as suggested in Mr Huff and Ruby’s Worry – these feelings can be managed.

Introduce the feelings thermometer. Acknowledge that, as humans, we experience many feelings.

Place students in small groups with a blank thermometer. You could ask everyone to focus on the same emotion (e.g. anger, sadness, anxiety) OR assign a different emotion to each group. Invite students to discuss and record their ideas about how the emotion feels in their body, as well as possible strategies to help manage these feelings. They can draw on any of the model texts you may have read together for inspiration.

Once everyone has finished their thermometers, conduct a gallery walk so students can read each other’s ideas. Invite them to share any additional responses with the rest of the class. Then create a joint feelings thermometer for class display, listing coping strategies that students can use when they are in those zones. It is also important that students recognise what they can do to help others who are experiencing strong feelings. Continue to add to this list throughout the unit.

Ask students to record how they are currently feeling on a sticky note or small slip of paper. As a class, participate in a guided meditation using Smiling Mind or a similar app. Afterwards, have students write what they are feeling on the other side of the note. Make comparisons and have a general discussion about their experiences and the effectiveness of meditation as a coping strategy.

(ACELY1699)   (EN3-8D)   (ACELY1796)   (EN3-1A)

Rich assessment task

Invite students to design and create a poster, brochure or Google Slide communicating the ‘Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds’ message. These can be displayed around the school to promote the wellbeing of students and others in the school community.

(ACELY1699)   (EN3-8D)   (ACELA1504)   (EN3-3A)   (ACELY1707)   (EN3-2A)

Responding to the text

Aster’s notebook and response wall

Read Chapters One to Four (pp. 1–31). Continue to add examples of metaphors and figurative language to the word wall.

Discuss the structure of the text and how the italic prolepsis at the beginning of each chapter anticipates the events to come, allowing readers to predict how the story will unfold.

Ask students to imagine that they are Aster so they can retell the events leading up to the end of Chapter Four (when Xavier offers her a sandwich). Before they begin, allow time for them to discuss what they have learned about Aster, her actions, her goals and her emotions, based on what they have read so far.

Students should then retell the events of these early chapters from Aster’s perspective, as though she is writing about them in her notebook. Their work may take the form of a diary entry, comic strip, written recount, script, or another form of their choosing.

Display a selection of students’ responses on a class response wall.

(ACELY1701)   (EN3-5B)

Responding to situations

Being assertive

Read Chapters Five to Ten (pp. 32–69). Continue to add examples of metaphors and figurative language to the word wall.

Using copies of the text, invite students to find examples of Aster’s loneliness and passiveness in the chapters they have read so far. This could be revealed in events, actions, thoughts and/or dialogue. Record the examples using a collaborative tool so that students can view each other’s ideas.

Explore how Aster’s anxiety and extreme passiveness have impacted her throughout the text so far. Ignite discussion and pose questions about other characters’ actions and reactions towards her (e.g. Indigo Michael, Aster’s Mum). Encourage students to make balanced judgements about these characters’ behaviour, choices and dilemmas by referring to the class feelings thermometer.

NOTE: This discussion could be integrated with Health and Physical Education outcomes; see also the outcomes and criteria listed by the NSW Education Standards Authority (PDHPE K–10 Sample Work – Stage 3: Coping Strategy Scenarios).

Discuss the importance of being assertive. Show students the short Project Rockit video about communicating assertively, and the Kids Helpline article about being assertive and setting boundaries. Working in groups, students will discuss and list some suggestions and coping strategies for dealing with difficult situations. If you read Hey Warrior in class, you can also make connections to that text (Exploring the Text In Context of Our Community, School and ‘Me’ > Model Texts and Picture Books: Feelings and Emotions > Feelings, Emotions and the Brain).

(ACELY1701)   (EN3-5B)   (ACELY1699)   (EN3-8D)

Helping and supporting others

Read Chapters Eleven to Twenty (pp. 70–130). Continue to add examples of metaphors and figurative language to the word wall.

Draw students’ attention to the following paragraphs in Chapters Fifteen and Seventeen:

  • 95 (the third paragraph from the bottom of the page) – what Aster feels as she runs away from Mr Dineen’s class
  • 105–106 (the paragraph that runs over these pages) – what Aster wants to tell Mrs Milburn about why she ran away

Discuss how the author, Kate Gordon, has used structural and language features to reveal Aster’s thoughts, emotions and vulnerabilities. Shortly after Aster escapes to the rose bushes, Xavier says that it is his turn to help her (p. 95); discuss the power and importance of friendships and support networks during difficult moments.

There are two more important quotes in Chapters Twenty and Twenty-Two (if you have not read this far with students, you may wish to do so):

  • 124–125 (starting from the last four lines on p. 124) – when Aster describes feeling so positive about the day ahead that she asks her Dad for two pieces of toast
  • 144–145 (starting roughly halfway down p. 144) – the pivotal moment when Aster and Indigo walk to school together, and there is a complete shift in their attitudes towards and relationship with one another

Have students reflect on, discuss and reiterate how friendships, support networks, and the actions and words of people around us have the power to change our feelings, mood, thoughts, day, outlook… and maybe even our entire life.

(ACELY1699)   (EN3-8D)   (ACELY1701)   (EN3-5B)

Exploring plot, character, setting and theme

Revisiting character profiles

Read Chapters Twenty-One to Thirty (pp. 131–183). Add any final examples of metaphors and figurative language to the word wall.

Revisit Aster and Xavier’s character profiles (Connecting to Prior Knowledge > Character Profiles) and invite students to add more detail now that they have finished reading the book. Create profiles for Esme Rogers, Indigo, Dad, Aunt Noni, Mum, Flynn Blumenthal and Annaliese. Have students form small groups and assign one profile to each group so its members can record that character’s important traits.

Character comparisons

Discuss some of the similarities and differences between characters from the book. Ask students to select TWO characters that they were most drawn to and compare them using a Venn diagram. They should consider their chosen characters’ positive qualities, as well as areas where they could grow and develop.

Finally, discuss how the characters, setting and plot of Aster’s Good, Right Things work together to explore contemporary and relatable themes and deliver a valuable message to readers.

(ACELY1699)   (EN3-8D)   (ACELY1701)   (EN3-5B)   (ACELT1610)   (EN3-8D)

Rich assessment task

Suggest that students create positive awareness by spreading a valuable message about the importance of doing good and right things.

First model, and then have students draft and compose, a persuasive text about the importance of challenging ourselves to do good, right things in our daily lives. Reiterate the idea that friendships, support networks, actions and words have the power to change someone’s feelings, mood, thoughts, day, outlook or life; this is the message that the persuasive text should communicate.

Select some of your students to share their responses at a whole school assembly or in your school newsletter, and/or display them around the school as well as on your class response wall.

(ACELT1609)   (EN3-2A)   (ACELY1701)   (EN3-5B)   (ACELA1504)   (EN3-3A)   (ACELA1505)   (EN3-3A)

Examining text structure and organisation

Revisit the italic prolepses at the beginning of each chapter. Use a collaborative tool (like a Google Doc) so that students can record the prolepses that struck their interest and curiosity. Discuss the text’s structure and compare the textual features in your selected examples.

(ACELA1797)   (EN3-5B)

Point of view

Discuss the effect of Kate Gordon’s choice to write in the first person. As highlighted by the Author Learning Center, this can build a strong rapport with readers, providing insight into the main character’s thoughts and feelings while creating an emotional connection with the reader.

Explore the features/key components of first person texts by reading and discussing the MasterClass article ‘What Is First Person Point of View in Writing?’. Create an anchor chart exhibiting the key features and display this near your word and response walls. Then ask students to form small groups and use copies of the text to identify examples of the following:

First person writing that brings the reader closer and creates a personal/intimate relationship with Aster (the narrator) Examples:

  • Chapter Eight, p. 56, second-last paragraph (Aster’s description of how hard she cried)
  • Chapter Twenty-Four, p. 158, last five lines (the lines after Esme asks Aster to be her friend)
First person writing that expresses an opinion and tells the story through the lens of Aster’s experience Example:

  • Chapter One, p. 3, last line (Aster’s feeling that she is not destined for anything)
First person writing that builds intrigue and suspense Example:

  • Prologue (Aster’s belief that doing good, right things will keep people from leaving her)
  • Chapter Two, p. 12, last two paragraphs (Aster’s fear that Hollyhock will sense what’s inside her)

Research and inquire about the power of perspective in writing. Show students the following resources to help them understand first, second and third person points of view:

Once you have read the article and watched the video, invite students to compare the three perspectives by completing the table below. They will refer to the examples of first person writing that they identified earlier and rewrite them in the second and third person. Discuss the three perspectives and how each impacts the reader, particularly in terms of empathy and engagement.

First person Second person Third person
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(ACELT1795)   (EN3-1A)   (ACELT1610)   (EN3-8D)

Examining grammar and vocabulary

Draw students’ attention to the class word wall. Look closely at how figurative language communicates powerful messages and engages the reader. There is an abundance of figurative language in Aster’s Good, Right Things, which amplifies Aster’s emotions and creates vivid and descriptive images for the reader.

Invite students to create posters (digital or physical) titled ‘The Power of Figurative Language’. Ask them to include their favourite examples of figurative language from Aster’s Good, Right Things (and any other texts you may have read in class).

(ACELT1611)   (EN3-3A)

Rich assessment task

Model selecting a paragraph or short extract from the text and rewriting it from a different point of view. A good example would be rewriting p. 153 or 154 from Xavier’s point of view.

Now ask students to form groups of three. You can assign each group a paragraph/extract OR allow students to choose their own, though it should involve at least one other character apart from Aster:

  • One student will rewrite the paragraph/extract in the first person, from another character’s point of view (e.g. Esme, Indigo, Dad)
  • One student will rewrite the paragraph/extract in the second person
  • One student will rewrite the paragraph/extract in the third person

Allow each group to make comparisons and discuss which point of view maximises the impact and effectiveness of the writing, before sharing with the whole class. Together, discuss how the same idea presented from different points of view can have different effects on reader empathy and engagement.

Display a selection of students’ responses on a class response wall.

(ACELT1610)   (EN3-8D)   (ACELY1698)   (EN3-6B)   (ACELA1505)   (EN3-3A)   (ACELY1705)   (EN3-2A)

Describing emotions

Aster describes her anxious, unsettled and worried feelings as ‘noise’ (p. 12), while Xavier calls his dark feelings and depression a ‘black dog’ (p. 113).

As a class, brainstorm and record a range of vocabulary, figurative speech and/or song lyrics to describe a range of emotions. Students may like to identify examples from the text that demonstrate the powerful effect of words, such as the ‘wells of sadness’ Aster mentions on pp. 141–142 and 168. Try to categorise students’ responses under the following headings (plus any others you wish to add):

Angry, furious, explosive Frustrated, annoyed, irritable Anxious, worried, unsettled Sad, negative, lonely
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(ACELA1512)   (EN3-6B)

Growth and identity

In Chapter One Aster reveals her identity, values, and what is most important to her, i.e. doing the good and right things (p. 4); over the course of the story, however, we witness a shift. Consider the change in Aster’s worldview and self-confidence by the end of Chapter Twenty-Eight, when she reframes what it means to do good and right things (p. 176). Compare this to the way she is presented earlier in the story.

This is me

Place students in small groups. Ask them to read and reflect on Aster’s song on p. 7. Ask:

  • How might Aster be feeling?
  • How do these words make you feel?

Now watch and listen to ‘This Is Me’, performed by Keala Settle and the ensemble from The Greatest Showman (2017). You can play this video from 0:58, or stream the song while projecting the lyrics for students. Note the powerful words and the message of bravery, confidence and self-acceptance.

As discussed above, Aster undergoes substantial change and growth throughout the story, coming to new realisations about the nature of good and right things (p. 173). Ask students to work in small groups and compare the lyrics to ‘This Is Me’ to Aster’s narrative of personal growth.

(ACELY1796)   (EN3-1A)

Rich assessment task

Students are to plan, draft and compose a monologue, diary entry, letter, poem, description or short narrative based on a theme explored in the text (e.g. mental health, anxiety, identity, family, friendship).

Remind students to draw on the discussions and ideas explored throughout this unit (you might like to revisit your word and response walls). Encourage them to think about word choice and use a range of vocabulary, emotive language and figurative language. They should also consider the point of view (first, second or third person) that will best fit their purposes.

Students should read and edit their own AND others’ work using agreed criteria. They should pay attention to structural and language features; flow and sense; organisation of ideas; and choice of language. Encourage them to revise and try something different if an element is not having the desired impact.

Tell students that, when sharing their written work, they need to discuss the form (i.e. monologue, diary entry, letter, poem, description or short narrative) and explain why they chose it.

You can publish the finished pieces using various software or word processors, adding visual, print and audio elements to enhance impact and audience engagement.

(ACELT1612)   (EN3-7C)   (ACELY1698)   (EN3-6B)   (ACELY1704)   (EN3-2A)   (ACELY1707)   (EN3-2A)   (ACELA1507)   (EN3-6B)   (ACELA1508)   (EN3-6B)   (ACELA1512)   (EN3-6B)